Wednesday this week left me bouncing between the two local shops and spending entirely too long hanging out to get back in time to read or write here. With, unfortunately, encouragement to explore the upcoming/starting event Spider-Verse. Well, I did read when I got back, then immediately passed out. So, here we are!
- All-New X-Factor #14
- Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #3 (of 3)
- Daredevil #8
- The Delinquents #2 (of 4)
- Edge of Spider-Verse #2
- Elektra #6
- Superior Spider-Man #33
- Translucid #6 (of 6)
- Unity #11
NOTE: Elektra #6 is part of my “I’m not yet caught up” trend. So, I didn’t read it. So, no review.
Let’s get this out of the way: my known distaste for Humberto Ramos means I’ve not been reading much Spider-Man, despite his being, otherwise, my most-read Marvel character without question or hesitation. It also means that The Superior Spider-Man, in particular, stayed off my radar through some kind of fancy filtering. Yeah, some other folks were in there, like Camuncoli (who penciled this one), but I’m usually disinclined to pick up a series piecemeal.
The one exception I made was for the Stegman-penciled 17-19, which brought back Miguel O’Hara (that is, Spider-Man 2099) into Earth-616 for his solo series, and I figured, for the last two issues of the series “ever” (we’ll see about that, of course), I could deal for both a cross-over idea I like and the fact that I wouldn’t have to cautiously watch it to see about dropping it if Ramos returned (thus losing plot threads and so on)¹.
My affection for, especially, some of the more “off-brand” Spideys (Ben Reilly, Kaine Parker, the aforementioned O’Hara), meant the storyline would be intriguing. This pair of issues (that is, including the preceding #32) are set to introduce why and how all these Spider-People are gathering. Conveniently, the events take place in a temporal pocket that was acknowledged in–hey! Superior #17-19. Nice!
So: #32 got Otto-Peter (Superior) to recognize the threat posed by this hunter Karn, who is pursuing Spider-Folk through the multiverse. He began to gather others in light of this, as they were the only prey in any given reality that Karn was interested in–so if Karn came after him, they would be centralized enough to provide a snowballing threat. #33 takes him up from here and introduces more Spider-Folk, as well as dropping some in who are appearing in other ways (such as via Edge of Spider-Verse, the second issue of which is reviewed below, and the first issue of which introduced Earth-90214’s “Noir” version). In his immeasurable arrogance, Otto assumes he has the means of controlling Karn, and finds that Karn is, as he suspected, but one of many–and that this threat may be one that only he and a few of the other Spider-Folk are willing to treat “appropriately” (ie, with fatal methodologies).
Christos Gage and Dan Slott give us a variety of voices for all of our Spider-___s, though most of them are largely (as would be expected) mild variations on Peter Parker’s voice. Giuseppe Camuncoli is an excellent choice for these stories–his pencils with John Dell’s inks keep a slew of characters who, inevitably, look somewhat similar from being in any way hard to tell apart. Even amassed, it’s pretty simple to distinguish the six-armed Spider-Man’s body parts in a panel from a cyborg whose metal portions are not always on display, or Spider-Monkey, or Spider-Man: India, all of whom have limited visible differences from the waste up, colour-wise. Antonio Fabela’s colours, too, assist in this, acting as only mild variations that keep characters separate without being so glaring as to feel forced.
There’s a back-up feature, also by Gage (this time solo on script) with art by M.A. Sepulveda, with Richard Isanove on colours, that doesn’t do what I’ve often found awful with back-ups–let the first one down. Maintaining the writer helps, but having a good art team really makes a difference. The focus, tone, and style (mostly thanks to Sepulveda and Isanove) shift entirely to Karn and his family of hunters² as they pursue the more outlandish of Spider-Folk–the Master Weaver of Universe-000 (!) and self-described “God” Ai Apaec that helps to explain the in-Victorian-theme-but-otherwise-weird diving helmet of Karn, while also developing something of his character in the process.
Having these two stories together does manage to justify the bumped cover price, I think–so long as you accept the current-standard pricing in general.
On Earth-We-Actually-Don’t-Know,-It-Seems, the radioactive spider bit Gwendolyne Stacy, not Peter Parker, and it set off an entirely different, yet strangely familiar story: Peter Parker’s reputation as “pathetic [instead of ‘puny’] Parker” turns him, in absence of accident, to deliberate manipulation of himself, a death that inspires the heroics of Spider-Woman (who also started in entertainment, using her powers for drum-playing gimmicks) also launches JJJ’s crusade against her, and Captain Stacy (!), too, questions this vigilante.
We’ve got a pretty great two-page rundown of most of these events characterized as “Previously in Spider-Woman…” while Gwen is processing them in Spider-Person standard fashion (and her luck is about on par with “The Old Parker Luck”), having a gig with her (well, not her, pretty clearly) band the Maryjanes, the police on her tail after the aforementioned death, her own father unwittingly pursuing her, and the Kingpin sending the Rhino after that same father in a misguided attempt to curry favour with her.
This story actually doesn’t do much at all to tie in to Spider-Verse yet–but that’s fair. Even the first issue, which covered 90214’s “Noir” Spidey had the previous Noir to function as world-building and set-up for that version of Peter, where this Gwen has never even been seen. We get a single panel to remind us, at the very end, of where this is all going, but prior to that–well, we’re getting lots of nudges toward the proposed/hoped for/what have you Spider-Gwen solo book.
Jason Latour manages to work some nice details in on Gwen’s approach to life, motivation, dreams, and superheroics–tying the last to her first love (music!) in a nice way, even. Our new versions of her father (especially) and even Betty, Glory, and Mary-Jane also get some little bits of fleshing out, with a plot that manages to short-hand a lot of the differences in this universe from everything we’re used to.
Robbi Rodriguez, however, suffers from the kind of stylized art that I continue feel utterly inappropriate for superhero book. Or maybe it’s just Big Two books. Or something–I don’t know. Putty faces (which have always bothered me, considering my distastes for Ramos, McFarlane, even JoeMad) are matched with the sketchiness that I think did dis-service to a few issues of Captain Marvel and She-Hulk (is there some idea that this style is suited to female protagonists or something?), especially as Rodriguez’s inks just reinforce that sketchy feeling. Gwen’s own face is wildly inconistent–from the cover to the first page, she looks like an entirely different person. Her father’s face sometimes middle-aged, but by the end looks like it’s melting. Weirdly cartoon-y giant foreheads appear and disappear, without rhyme or reason, sometimes seeming to stem from strange perspective choices, sometimes just “because” (Matt Murdock suffers this pretty strongly).
The negative-space-based design for her costume is really cool, with its inversion of the red-with-webs standard as highlights and liner only, but I think that serves to highlight the thing that redeems most of the art: Rico Renzi’s colours and Clayton Cowles’s barely-controlled lettering. Renzi douses the book in loads of psychedelic colour that resembles the approach Adam Metcalfe took with Translucid’s psychedelic hallucinatory moments, without quite the madness that was appropriate there. The texturing “effect” on Rhino is pretty great, too, with bluish splatters across his otherwise grey skin to imply that texture. Cowles’s lettering is wild and primal, which helps to really sell the feel of the book where it appears–even “Previously in Spider-Woman…” is slapdash paint-strokes! I’m vaguely wary of where to associate some of it, the way that the lyrics to the song we assume is called “Face It Tiger” are incorporated into the art really sells the tone and makes that song and the idea of the band work.³
While I’m completely down for seeing Gwen’s adventures continue, I cannot let the moment pass without mentioning that a band called Married with Sea Monsters recorded what they thought “Face It Tiger” would sound like, and holy crap, I think they nailed the hell out of it, down to the punk-ish tone I read immediately, “MJ’s” riotgrrl-y vocals and Gwen’s power-thump of drums. License this shit, Marvel. Do it now.
One day, I’d like to escape my self-destructive habit of reading stupid reviews, but that hasn’t happened yet, so a brief aside: last issue, we pursued the story of Pietro Maximoff’s reunion with his daughter Luna (and his public admission of his crimes) after it was opened the issue before. Someone said it was treading water, someone else dumped on the book over art and ignored everything else. This is bad. This is very bad. Don’t do these things. If you’re reading a PAD book and you think an issue that’s exploring the character-effects of actions is boring repetition, you’re probably reading the wrong author.
Anyway, Peter decides to continue his focused approach from those issues, moving on from Pietro, but not leaving the Lensherr lineage in the process: Wanda Maximoff appears before Lorna Dane, and, after a bit of hissing over her monstrous actions, Wanda admits that she’s just there to attempt to be family to her half-sister, as the two of them have never done so, and Wanda has failed to even do anything non-work with Pietro, either. It’s all an interruption of Danger’s continued forays into segments of the human experience that she is now looking to Lorna for information on–making for the most ready need for exit Lorna could have.
Pop Mhan continues the Di Giandomenico-aping from last issue and does quite well at keeping the art largely clean and restrained to emphasize the character-based storytelling. Lorna gets to be in the interesting position of “most normal person” when Wanda’s limited socializing and Danger’s thoroughly non-human approach to the world collide at…a RenFaire? Well, why not? Lorna wants a way out of all of this (while still giving it a shot), Wanda has no idea bout anything, and Danger is, well, Danger.
Mined for some great exchanges, and Wanda’s first real exposure to alcohol, David works in a quick subplot about some of the acting staff at the RenFaire, and gives our book’s protagonists something to deal with in an action sense alongside everything else–an action they even acknowledge when they take care of the situation and remark upon their rotten “trouble magnet” luck. And then David sucker-punches us, in ways I’m not going to describe other than–oh dear, do I want issue 15 now.
Mark Waid dealt pretty quickly (and wonderfully, let me repeat) with the Original Sin tie-ins for Matt, and we’re on to a new story that I’d already forgotten the core of for some reason, and didn’t even manage to recall on seeing the cover.
If you’re not feeling as thick as me–yes! It’s the Purple Man. Always a peculiar villain–he’s purple and has a stupid name, but can be and has been used for some pretty interesting stories in light of his powers, which somehow imbues his stupid name with, instead, a kind of brilliant simplicity–he controls (ahem) much of this issue.
Matt and (legal and romantic) partner Kristen McDuffie take some time to broaden Matt’s sensory base (“What if someday, as Daredevil, you’re overrun by either sea lions or seals? Your life may depend on knowing which is which.”⁴) when a discussion about an out-of-the-blue phone call from her father leads them to a trip to visit him on his boat. Meanwhile the Purple Man is using his powers of persuasive control of others to assemble and purple-ize children who join that self-same recruitment effort, his reasons for which are quickly made clear.
The best thing about the way Waid deals with these characters is the way they are explored without worrying incessantly about “expansion”. Chris Samnee’s illustrations of Matt Murdock’s perceptions (reminiscent of the transformative–*cough*–effects of Unicron upon Megatron and his fellow wounded cronies in Transformers: The Movie) even assist in this feeling. We’ve got another voice looking into Matt’s powers, finding them fascinating–unusual, he notes, for the people in his life–while we also look into what life is like for the Purple Man, neither of which feels like a seismic shift so much as a revelation of what was already there (see also: Peter David). While it is largely a set-up for what will occur with the Purple People (note: Waid, do not use this terminology), the personal-life events for Matt make the issue itself very worthwhile–nevermind the delving into the Purple Man’s motivations and character.
I will say that Matthew Wilson’s initial colouring approach came off really confusing. In light of forgetting that I’d been told (in advance, by some preview or other–maybe even the last issue) that this would deal with the Purple Man, the night-time setting left me completely unaware of the purple skin present. Came off as rather day-for-night–so I got the overall idea of what was happening thanks to everyone else, but I didn’t realize at all it was the Purple Man until later, in different lighting.
And so, we reach the end of what has been a stellar miniseries.
The Horse has captured The Navigator for his own purposes, to understand, fully, what it is that has caused the Navigator to sag in his heroics. Having walked “with” him through his origin, the Horse feels a greater understanding for who and what the Navigator is, and what he will do with this information.
I don’t know how to talk about this issue, to be honest. It’s a conclusion I’m not sure I expected on any level. I felt my jaw actually drop, because I was legitimately surprised at where it went. Claudio, Chondra, Bayliss, and Metcalfe didn’t do anything to let down the previous five issues, with the wonderfully mysterious and uncomfortably appealing Horse so forcefully taking center stage in the real and present world, with the Navigator left primarily to exist and drive the book in hallucination and flashback as things stand.
If you’ve been sleeping on this, make sure to change that up when it’s collected, if nothing else. This stuff is really good.
And so, we see the conclusion of another Valiant Armor Hunters mini.
Having defeated the hunter Lilt, Bloodshot is left only to deal with the savage half-hunter/half-armour Malgam, with the recouped forces of Livewire and M.E.R.O. supporting him. Any shifting tides related to this incursion outside this locale are not relevant–this is mano-e-mano in the loosest of terms (since neither of them is even “man” in a nice generalized sense, between the nanites and the X-O).
Despite the cover, GIN-GR is not really involved in any capacity.
Joe Harris did not, I think, quite capture the heights of Swierczynski, Gage, Dysart, or the other writers who’ve helmed Bloodshot as a solo book–the mystery man himself doesn’t really even seem to recognize his existing depths, let alone expand upon them. It’s a pure action book, to be sure, and the events certainly preclude his search for identity, or acting on anything other than the immediate, but it rings pretty hollow as a result of all of this, alas.
Trevor Hairsine’s art is not necessarily a saving grace, but does keep a momentum-based, action-oriented book from faltering too much. Still, the flashbacks continue to seem largely irrelevant, even as we’ve now closed this entire chapter–or, if not irrelevant, certainly unnecessary. In a universe as largely “flawless” (within reason, that is) as modern Valiant’s, this is the first book I might hesitantly call disappointing.
The first chapter of The Delinquents mostly placed the pieces in places: Mondostano as the not-so-subtle villainous corporation which hires Quantum and Woody, and Aram and Archer as crusading (in the Indiana Jones sense) for the same goal.
Asmus still has clear control over the book’s script (again, he and Van Lente plot, but Asmus scripts) as it deals far more in the kind of humour Quantum and Woody deal in, than the kind that Van Lente uses with Archer & Armstrong. This isn’t a complaint, and neither Aram nor Archer suffers for it, to be sure.
The cover, at first, made me a bit sad–where is Goat, after all? But the book resolved this with a number of great “silent” goat-gags, enhanced by the addition of a ridiculous children’s typing toy that lets us in on their father’s identity being trapped in the goat, but with the silly shorthand typing that keeps it nice and ridiculously goat-y.
What really sells this, though, is exactly what the first cover promised: the strange bonding of these two teams as they really and finally meet up. What was surprising was the way that the writers ended up “pairing them off”–it’s not like that first cover. The obvious Woody and Aram pairing was lost to Woody and Archer’s non-invulnerable status leaving them more cautious and thus able to hash a few things out–and lord knows, as much as Woody would love someone as hedonistic, the chance to corrupt the willing brings out the best/worst in him.
A clever cover all around (conveying the size of GIN-GR, while also managing to imply the issue number a second time) is, alas, also not exactly appropriate. Unity has firmly dealt with the hounds, but the felled GIN-GR has released mechanical “spores”. There’s a bit of confusion about Livewire’s concurrent roles in the two books this week (I didn’t stop and try to really break it down, though, it just felt odd), but we’re really dealing most with Ninjak and Gilad this time.
We get a nice insight into what makes Ninjak unique as the operative that he is, with a cool bit of hand-waving “meditation” bollocks that slides right into that “acceptable suspension of disbelief” slot and explains why he’s just such a BAMF.
Kindt gets to give us a nice bit of interplay in the pairing we’ve seen for the last few issues of Ninjak and Gilad, with Ninjak’s very solitary nature running up against the team-based reasons for the book and its name, as well as his own militaristic background as the “Eternal Warrior”.
I always feel like, unless it’s unexpectedly not-great, commenting on the pencils in a modern Valiant book is just silly–Segovia, as with most of their artists, is good at both interesting images and the storytelling aspect necessary in comic book penciling, and I just can’t find myself asking for more than that in this universe.
Today’s title’s from All-New X-Factor. Lorna finds her conversational tact shown-up unexpectedly.
¹If it’s not coming through, even ads for Ramos’s work send me into fits of infuriated rage, I loathe his pencils so very much. I’d rather they not, but they do. It mostly makes me angry because I’d rather be reading Spider-Man, but I hate the art so much it would be distracting (as it has been any time I look at his stuff, covers or interiors) and just gross to look at, but that’s a reminder that it wouldn’t work out, and that I lost the chance to read those stories with at least art I don’t mind. Irrational? Sure. Whatever. It’s a sincere reaction. I really, really don’t like his work and wish he could magically stick to books I don’t read so that he’d still get work and his fans could still pick his stuff up, but it wouldn’t interfere with my reading. Selfish? Obviously. But it’s not like I’m campaigning for it, here. Let me have my silly fantasy world.
²His family includes the otherwise more famous Morlun, who apparently returned after JMS’s run on ASM a decade ago that I read and liked, but most people hated for turning mystical–more fuel for the “there are no bad characters” fire, I guess–that or a bunch of angry readers are out there right now.
³It immediately reminded me of Morbius, the Living Vampire #6, and the band that the Basilisk and Morbius crash in on, which I’ve always liked (even if Len’s lyrics were a bit iffy on the meter-side).
⁴One can only hope this is foreshadowing.